TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday slammed the backlash against the government’s announcement that Israel will deport illegal African migrants as “slander” and a “campaign of lies.”
The Interior Ministry on Sunday began issuing thousands of deportation notices to single Eritrean and Sudanese men who entered the country illegally, informing them that they have 60 days to leave Israel to an unnamed African country with a “stable government” or else face forced removal or imprisonment. Those who leave voluntarily will receive a $3,500 grant in addition to an entry visa for the third country.
More than half of Israel’s 38,000 illegal African migrants will reportedly receive the deportation notice. The Interior Ministry said a minimum of 300 African migrants per month over the next three years will be deported.
Netanyahu lambasted the suggestion that the move could be illegal under international law.
“International law places obligations on countries and it also gives them rights. There is an obligation to accept refugees, and we accept refugees,” he said at his weekly Likud faction meeting, “but international law also gives the right to a country to remove from its borders illegal migrants. We have no obligation to allow illegal labor migrants who are not refugees to remain here.”
“This is a campaign of lies. It is based on empty slogans and on comparisons that have no place in the public discourse in Israel because there is no truth to them,” Netanyahu added.
Recipients of the deportation notice will be granted a hearing wherein they may present their case within seven days of receiving the letter.
“Before making a final decision in your case, you are invited to attend a hearing that will take place at the enforcement facility where your permit is extended,” it states. “You must arrive at the facility with all the documents relevant to your case. You have the right to be represented. Should you fail to report, enforcement and relocation proceedings will be initiated against you.”
However, senior officials at the Israel Prison Service reportedly said that imprisonment was unlikely because the overcrowding of Israeli jails has already reached critical levels with the prison system currently unable to absorb more than 1,000 additional inmates.
The ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority has approved 11 of 15,000 asylum applications submitted since 2013, according to a claim by the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants.
Ori Lahat, the director for the African Refugee Development Center, said the ministry’s decision was a stain on Israel’s record that would last for generations. The Center is financed by the New Israel Fund, a radical, anti-Israel NGO funded by billionaire George Soros.
“One thing that we noticed is that the Israeli government is moving ahead with its plan, while you can see we are getting people from all sectors – including Diaspora Jews – condemning this procedure, and I think at a minimum the government should reexamine this,” said Lahat. “I think this shows a deliberate intent of the government to not afford due process for asylum seekers, which is the key to this story.”
“From our point of view, if we allow this procedure to go through, in the end, it will be a stain on the history of Israelis and the Jewish people, and I think we need to do whatever we can to not let it happen,” he continued, adding that it was “a stain on our DNA as Jewish people and a country, and is something that we as Jews and Israelis cannot sit aside and let happen.”
“This campaign is baseless and absurd,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week in response to the furor. “Genuine refugees and their families will remain in Israel. We have no obligation to allow illegal labor migrants who are not refugees to remain here.”
He also accused Soros of funding the campaign against the deportations.
“George Soros is also funding the protests,” Netanyahu said, according to leaks from a meeting of ministers from his ruling Likud party. He was also said to have added that former president Barack Obama “deported two million infiltrators and they didn’t say anything.”
Netanyahu instructed Likud MKs on Monday to “help to prevent the slander being spread against Israel with the proper defense. And the proper defense is the truth.”